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How She Got There: Ashlyee Hickman, Founder of MyEveryzine

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Name: Ashlyee Hickman
Age: 25
Job Title/Description: Founder of MyEveryzine; Administrative Assistant at YouTube
College/Major: Pepperdine University/Broadcast Journalism and Advertising
Twitter Handle: @MyEveryzine 


What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

Ashlyee Hickman: My first job in the entertainment industry was an assistant position at Sony Pictures Television. During my senior year, I interned with the international marketing team. At first, I was expecting the whole “get my coffee” routine, so I braced myself. But the people on the team were spectacular. They taught me so much; I got a front row seat to see and work on the amazing things they were doing with Sony’s portfolio of channels and shows.

After I graduated, it was a little bit of a rollercoaster: I got another awesome internship working with the team that works on TheEllen Degeneres Show, and I would interview for full-time jobs almost every week. I kept on hearing the same feedback: “You’re great! So bubbly! But you’re so young.” That got frustrating, so I told myself, “Okay, I’m going to be a barista and CEO.” I got a job at Starbucks and turned my focus on MyEveryzine.

Shortly after, I got a job at Pepperdine and stayed at Starbucks because I enjoyed learning how such a great company operates from the inside. Six months later, my former internship supervisor asked me if I’d be interested in an open position in their department; four months after that, I earned the position supporting the senior vice president. When it comes to the professional world, “No,” really means, “Not yet.” [This scenario] also taught me to make every situation work for myself. When I worked at Starbucks, I’d practice my broadcast news voice when announcing the lattes I made. I loved seeing how Starbucks handled internal communications and it helped give me a reference for my own at MyEveryzine. I am thankful for every step in my career.

What’s a typical day like for you? What does your job entail?

AH: My day job changes every day, but it usually involves managing mountains of information, emails and instant messages and condensing it into bite-sized chunks or action items. Overall, this job is cooler and [more] fulfilling than any other conventional job I’ve had because it has so many more responsibilities associated with it: I’m an accountant, the human version of Google Now, producer, event planner, travel agent, graphic designer and more, all in a day’s work. I also like to take 10 minutes to see what’s hot on YouTube.

After work [at YouTube], I start working on ME: getting a pulse of trends, revamping the site and reading high school required reading for some things we are working on for TutorME. Somewhere in there, I stick in going to the gym, completing business school applications and watching Scandal on Thursdays and Girls on HBO Go.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now

AH: I don’t think this is specific to my industry, but one of the most valuable things I learned quickly is this: Navigating work politics is just as key to your success as having an excellent work performance. That’s why I’m so passionate about high school. It’s basically our first foray into making autonomous decisions and social interactions. I believe if you learn how to interact with the bully or wallflower in high school, you’ll refine the skill in college, you’ll be prepared to identify the archetypes in the workplace and you’ll ultimately come out on top.

Is there a quote you live by?

AH: “The world is full of infinite possibilities.” These are the exact words Mr. Tuttle, my history teacher, used to start the first day of class during my freshman year of — you guessed it— high school. These seven words have guided me every day since then.

When I told myself I wanted to start a business, I heard, “The world is full of infinite possibilities.” When I decided I wanted to work at Google even though I didn’t know anyone who did, I heard,  “The world is full of infinite possibilities.” I want to spend the rest of my life helping people hear the same and do amazing things.

What is the best part of your job?

AH: The best part of my job at Google is the empowerment. I am empowered to develop myself and empowered to make our company a better place. Google puts information to the world’s fingertips and it does the same when it comes to information and opportunities for development. I love learning, even if it’s information I will never use— just this morning I found myself asking my dentist how he performed a procedure. It’s even more fulfilling to learn something I can execute in my job the next day.

Culture is extremely important to the company, so I love to find ways to support the value. After putting a sharper focus on my finances and knowing people tend to do the same in the new year, I brought Alexa von Tobel from LearnVest to speak to our offices about [becoming] financially fearless. It meant so much to me that Googlers contacted me to share how much that event helped them. I love having the power to make a difference.

The best part of MyEveryzine is the impact. My favorite part is having the opportunity to visit classrooms and hearing the goals students have for themselves. We use the time to work through them and create a framework to achieve them. I love that MyEveryzine gets to be a resource for teens as they navigate one of the most important times of their lives. The fact that we do work that can help an entire generation succeed is incredibly humbling and gives me the steam to press on.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Do you have a dream job?

AH: I’m finding ways to make any job my dream job, but I am in love with the stories brands tell on YouTube. From Dove’s “Selfie” to Nike’s “Possibilities”, I think it is such a cool way to interact with the brands and products we love, and I’d like to work on making it more of a common place. It’s pretty epic that YouTube is the only place people go to watch commercials on purpose.

I’m also very excited about MyEveryzine working with schools to create programs that make the things learned in books come alive. In addition to having extracurriculars like band and journalism, I was fortunate to have amazing core programs that integrated language arts and history to put students in the center, rather than the stale pages of a used textbook. I believe these experiences shouldn’t be a luxury, and I look forward to making sure they are not.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

AH: Take Tim Gunn’s words to heart: “Make it work.” Take the opportunity to make every situation one that is mutually beneficial, and remember it’s always in your best interest to be excellent, even if you think no one is watching.

I’d also say, manage your expectations and keep your financial burdens light. After I graduated from Pepperdine, I had grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle that Starbucks tips wouldn’t support. I have finally come to peace with the fact that these are supposed to be the grind years so we have something to work up to. I spent the first part of my 20s maintaining a lifestyle I expected. One day I had a depressing thought: What if these are the best days of my life because I’ll still be paying for my 20s when I’m 40? That helps me keep things in perspective, although nothing will ever keep me away from Kate Spade (treat yo self)!

The last piece of advice I’d give is [to] use your imagination to dream an amazing future for yourself and pursue it despite any doubt—the last thing you ever want to do is shut a perfectly good door in your own face.

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